Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Who's the Better Manager, Pep or Jose?

This is an interesting question which many football fans have argued over for a few years now, with Pep having just quit Barcelona and Mourinho about to manage in his third season at Real. In many ways, this debate is just as interesting as the Messi vs Ronaldo debate, but perhaps less discussed and certainly much less tedious that the debate surrounding the two best players in world football. In many ways, the two managers reflect the two individuals they are managing, or in Pep's case, managed. Like Ronaldo, Mourinho has been well traveled with stints in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain currently. In Guardiola's case, he has been a one club man like Messi. Mourinho has been a top flight manager for 12 years whereas Pep has been Barca head coach for just four. While this does not necessarily mean that Jose has learned more throughout his career and therefore has accumulated more knowledge than Pep, it does mean that by definition, Jose is more experienced than Pep in that regard. Whatever your opinion is, it is hard to argue that Jose has experienced different tactical cultures and other things not related to anything on the football field, for instance, the media, supporters and even different styles of referees. While these factors certainly do make anyone a great manager on its own, it certainly contrasts with Pep's only experiences of these kind being restricted to Champions League games. Taking these things into consideration we can now start to judge more important things like results and style.

Let's start with the style of teams that these managers have gotten their teams to play. It is quite blatantly obvious that there is one clear winner here: Barcelona. Pep got his team to play football that has not been seen since Johan Cruyff's Dream Team. Pep is quite well known as a believer in the possession orientated philosophy, but one thing is to dream and another to actually implement and achieve. With players like Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Alves and Messi in his team, Pep redefined the term "possession football." He managed 246 games in four years and his side have had at least 50% possession in every one of those games, quite incredible. But was this the result of Pep's brilliant skills as a coach or was it simply that he inherited an unbelievable group of talented footballers. I would tend to steer clear of accusing Pep as a lucky man who happened to stumble across these said players. There are countless examples of teams who have had a great bunch of talented players but could not produce football to match. Pep is a smart man and he figured a way integrate and mold the players to produce the football they do. Perhaps his biggest quality is that he believes in a single philosophy and would never change it. His belief in this system and the way he made his players believe in it as well was the crucial element and the starting point of the making of his team. To go along with style, he has overseen a team that has won a total of 14 trophies including 3 Liga titles and 2 Champions League titles. It also included the famous sextuplet in his first season as head coach. It is these trophies which has led to the labeling of this edition of Barca as the best ever. While Pep's records are undeniably impressive, Mourinho has won more trophies in his career, a total of 19 including seven league titles across four countries. This equates to 1.58 trophies per season for Jose and 3.5 for Pep. While Pep's average is better, I point to the fact that Mourinho has had 8 years longer as coach than Pep and he has won trophies in four different countries. While the value of each manager's trophy tally is debatable, most people would agree that Mourinho's influence on his teams in terms of aesthetic style is dwarfed by his Catalan counterpart. Mourinho famously made his Chelsea team a highly organised and extremely watertight in defence. In 185 games in charge of Chelsea, they conceded a miserly 119 goals which is a very low number. This theme has continued across his time at Inter and Real Madrid with a prime example of this defensive prioritisation represented in the 2010 Champions League semi-final first second leg between Pep's Barca and Mou's Inter. That night, Inter defended for their lives and Barca completely dominated the game. Eventually, Inter made it through courtesy of the first leg result. In many ways that game summed up the two managers perfectly. Mourinho wanted to get the desired result no matter the method while Pep stuck to his guns and failed, or more like refused to adapt, like a child who refuses to eat his spinach. Ultimately, Jose is a master tactician but Pep is a purist of the highest order.

Whatever may bring Pep in the future, his time at Barcelona has revolusionised the old philosophy of tiki-taka football and brought in into the modern context. Jose on the other hand has revolutionised football coaching for different reasons- by being one thing: a winner. I guess it comes down to personal preference in terms of what kind of football you want to see. In fact, Jose's Madrid actually play quite nice attacking football so there might not be reason to doubt the prettiness of his teams' football, but that's for another post!  At the proverbial end of the day, I love football and I understand football. So in that sense I appreciate Mourinho just as much as I appreciate Guardiola and I appreciate Pep just as much as I appreciate Jose. So who's better? Who cares. They're both awesome!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Clash of Philosophy

It is startling to read about so many comments on various footballing websites to the tune of 'Chelsea were lucky' or 'Chelsea do not deserve to be champions.' To me, it seems that in this day and age it not only enough to win trophies to earn the respect and applause of the general spectating populous. You have to win with style as well. Easier said than done. It seems that the globe has been spoilt rotten by Barcelona and their once in a generation mesmeric style of football, better described as 'tiki-taka,' where playing the 'right way' is to keep as much possession as possible (usually mid 60%) and to never play the ball long, but always keeping the passes short. Uruguayan football journalist and pundit Jorge Ramos who works for ESPN Deportes, recently presented his top ten teams in world football right now. Who did he put first? Reigning European champions Chelsea? Nope. Runners up Bayern? No. Real Madrid, winners of the La Liga? Not a chance. Number one on his list was Barcelona. Where did Chelsea fit in his top ten? He placed them number six. Fellow ESPN pundit Tommy Smyth was asked to compile his own top ten. On his list, Chelsea were number one and Barcelona were number seven. For the record, Barcelona have not won a trophy this season whereas Chelsea have won two. In this example one can assume that Ramos places more importance on the 'means to an end' philosophy in evaluating the greatness of a team. On the other hand, Smyth places more importance on an 'end's to a mean' mentality. Whatever your view, one thing is clear: not every team can play as good as Barcelona. This is not to be confused with playing like Barcelona. The criticism of Chelsea is not because they are not as good as Barcelona, but because they chose not to play football the 'correct way' in the final. That is, they chose to 'park the bus' and play 'ten men behind the ball.' The other side of the argument tells us that defending is just as important as attacking and the ultimate aim of football is to win. But that seems to not impress modern football fans.

The clash between Chelsea and Bayern Munich represents a fundamental evolution of football. This theory of football evolution can be described as a clash between teams who represent the Chelsea model and those who represents the Barcelona model. In simple terms- attack vs defence. This clash is viewed out on the pitch, but when two polar opposite football philosophies clash, it not only represents just another game. The game represents a clash between two two ways of thinking. Two opposite ways of thinking. History is littered with clashes on the battlefield that represent more than just a battle for geographical position-it represents two ideologies between different nations. That is why there is so much discussion and opinion when games like this happen. This year- defence won. It also won in 2010 where Inter Milan beat Barcelona on their way to the Champions League, where coincidentally they beat Bayern in the final. Barcelona won the trophy in 2009 and 2011. When Inter or Chelsea win, it is a travesty to football. When Barca win, they are worthy winners. There are those who argue that efficiency in front of goal and taking your chances is part of the game. Chelsea scored from their only corner of the game. Bayern could not score a single goal from over 20 corners. In that sense, Chelsea deserved to beat Bayern. Former Australian goalkeeper Mark Bosnich often tells us that football is played in the middle of he field but it is won in both boxes. Quite true. Smyth's top five teams have all won a trophy this season: Chelsea, Real Madrid, Man City, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund. Ramos' top five are: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Man United and Man City.
Who will win next year's Champions League? Or more importantly, which philosophy will triumph?

Here's a link to Tommy Smyth v Jorge Ramos

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Hello! My first post

Welcome my fellow football lovers from across the globe! This is a brand new blog about the beautiful game and this is the very first post on Stop Talking Nonsense. To briefly introduce myself: I live in Sydney, Australia but I am obsessed with football and love to ramble on about it so I decided I needed to blog about the world game- from the craziness of Balotelli to the tactical intricacies of Barcelona. And everything in between. Just to be clear, I support Chelsea. After Chelsea's heroic win four days ago in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, I decided it would be a great time to start posting my thoughts to the scary world out there. I am here to write about interesting things-not merely to give you match reports and tell you the possession and shots on goal statistics from the previous game. So I look forward to sharing my thoughts on the beautiful game. Don't be afraid to leave your views and comments as well. And I never talk nonsense!